USS Zumwalt (DDG-1000) Update 04 ► Nearing Completion
If everything goes right, if the hardware and software all seem good and the weather cooperates, the revolutionary destroyer Zumwalt (DDG 1000) could taste the sea for the first time in December. It’ll be a moment many years in the making. “We’re at the stage of construction where there is very little production going on. The ship is built,” Sean Stackley, the Navy’s top official for research, acquisition and development, said 5 NOV. Featuring a tumblehome hull optimized for stealth, a new propulsion and power distribution system, an ambitious software environment that ties together nearly every system on the ship, and a reduced crew, the Zumwalt has been under construction since 2008 in the tiny town of Bath, Maine, at the Bath Iron Works (BIW) shipyard of General Dynamics. Development and design started much earlier than that.
”Everything is new,” Stackley said in an interview with Defense News. “From the propulsion plant, the power distribution – the whole integrated power system – the extraordinarily unique features of the hull form that provide the degree of stealth and survivability, the radar system, the degree of automation that’s incorporated into the ship to enable the reduced-size crew – it’s all new. “We’re at that stage,” he added, where “all of that is coming together in the test program.” The ship carried out extensive tests at the shipyard in mid-October – a 96-hour, four-day “fast cruise.” “We did everything from rolling the shafts, bringing up and down systems, testing failure modes, testing watch station effectiveness,” Stackley said. “You’re limited in terms of radiation – radiating things while next to the pier. But we did everything that we could next to the pier prior to getting underway.” That included running the propeller shafts – with the propellers removed. “We were able to test the props to a much higher degree pierside than we did on the [Arleigh Burke-class] DDG 51 destroyers,” Stackley said. “We leveraged some lessons-learned from the Brits in terms of their power system. “They attached water wheels – took the props off, put water wheels on so you’re not creating the thrust,” but with enough resistance to bring the electric load up “pierside far beyond what you’d be able to do on a pitched propeller.”
A new software “load” was delivered to the ship control systems last week. “I expect that will be the load we’ll take to sea,” Stackley said. “And right now we are continuing down the checklist in terms of completing the test program. We’ll do a check in terms of readiness for sea, and when we’re green we’ll follow suit and get underway. And it’ll be a healthy underway period. We plan on a 7-day underway period for the first builder’s sea trials to shake it down as extensively as possible. In December, if we’re ready.” How the ship does in the initial sea trials, Stackley said, will determine the ship’s delivery date in the spring.
“We’ve got a builder’s sea trial with a notional start of the 7th of December,” he said. “That is the critical milestone in terms of being able to deliver in the spring. We need a successful trial. We’ll learn things from the trial, we always do. First-of-class, we expect to learn a lot.
“We’ll come back off the trial, we’ll generate trial cards that identify deficiencies – it could be in terms of hardware, it could be in terms of software. But we take the full sea trial and schedule of test events, grade ourselves, bring the ship back, we correct the deficiencies, and then we get underway.”
With so much new technology involved, the ship will carry out a second set of builder’s sea trials before the Navy’s Board of Inspection and Survey comes aboard for acceptance trials. The scheduling of the second set of trials, Stackley said, “will be dependent on the issues we identify on the first builder’s trials.
“We have to hurdle the holidays, deal with weather-related impacts before getting back underway. Then after that second trial, having worked off issues from the first trial, that will give us the green light to go to acceptance trials.
“It becomes a trial-driven schedule, from the point in time we get underway for the first sea trials.”
During the week-long initial sea trials, the Zumwalt will be coming back to nearby Portland, Maine, several times to let off engineers who’s role in the tests is complete and take on others. Portland is easier for a ship to get in and out of quickly, but at the conclusion of the trials, the ship will head back up the narrow Kennebec River to return to the Bath shipyard. Stackley noted that, as planned, the Zumwalt will not be complete and ready for operations when it leaves Bath next year for its home port of San Diego. While nearly all of the ship’s hull, mechanical and electrical systems will be installed in Maine, most of the mission systems, including combat systems, radars and other sensors, will be completed in California. “This two-phased delivery approach has been in place since the contract was first struck,” he said, noting that the Navy and its contractors – including Raytheon and BAE – are in discussions now “in terms of scoping the work to ensure there’s no dropped handoff between BIW and the west coast.” The work for the second delivery phase, he said, will be mostly for mission systems equipment and activation.
Funding for the Zumwalt is essentially complete, Stackley said, including $433 million requested in the 2016 budget to continue work on the ship. “I think the funding we need is all programmed. It’s either in our hands or in our budget on the Hill,” Stackley said. “We have a pretty healthy post-delivery test and trials budget. There’s always risk with a first-of-class, we might have identified things that were not anticipated. But our understanding of the scope of work is matched by the budget that we have either in hand or is in the 2016 request.” Two other Zumwalt-class ships, the Michael Monsoor and Lyndon B. Johnson, also are under construction at Bath. [Source: DefenseNews | Christopher P. Cavas | November 11, 2015 ++]
USS Lake Erie (CG-70) Update 01 ► Mascot
A routine survey alerted Navy leaders that a bewildering climate had taken hold one of its foremost surface combatants. On the cruiser Lake Erie, investigators found a grueling schedule with arbitrary weekend workdays; a supply officer so offensive that he was ordered not to speak to any E-6 or below; a crew that spent hours repeatedly cleaning the same places just to look busy; work done and redone because of miscommunication with the shipyard. And the pièce de résistance: a seafaring pygmy goat named Master Chief Charlie. Under commanding officer Capt. John Banigan, Master Chief Charlie was more than a mascot — he was a shipmate. Charlie sailed on the ship's homeport shift from Hawaii to San Diego in 2014, tied up on the aft missile deck where crewmembers fed him and policed his droppings. And he was a fixture at command events. He hobnobbed with distinguished visitors, including the Navy's top officer and, allegedly, the strike group boss, and served as the ring bearer at a junior officer's wedding aboard the ship.
Master Chief Charlie
But the Navy's most adorable master chief would also end up costing Banigan his command. Investigators concluded that Charlie was a distraction to the chiefs’ mess and the command violated California state animal entry control procedures when it arrived in San Diego via the homeport switch. The chief's advised against taking Charlie along, but were countermanded by the skipper, according to a new report obtained by Navy Times that sheds new light on the peculiar command. Charlie, per one officer, was "the CO's goat." Banigan was sacked in April, when word first emerged that the goat was a focus of investigators. The career surface warfare officer disputes the Navy's findings about his command, saying the crew's eroding morale was due to the ship's punishing schedule and that the animal entry violation amounted to a paperwork error. In the span of a year, Lake Erie’s schedule included a four-month surge deployment to 7th Fleet, ballistic missile defense certifications, a homeport shift and an extended dry dock period — notorious for bringing down morale.
But in the final assessment, then-Carrier Strike Group 11 boss Rear Adm. Dee Mewbourne ruled that COs are charged with safeguarding the “morale, physical well-being and general welfare” of their sailors and that Banigan had fallen short. "Frequently independent, essentially autonomous operations are the hallmarks of command at sea," Mewbourne wrote in a May endorsement letter to the command investigation, which Navy Times obtained via Freedom of Information Act request. "The Lake Erie leadership, especially and inexcusably the CO, violated this trust and in so doing placed Lake Erie and the crew at elevated levels of stress and diminished quality of service well outside the bounds of normalcy that our service requires. "While the intentions of Capt. Banigan, for the most [part], were likely squarely centered on mission accomplishment, his actions were clearly unchecked by an effective feedback or assessment mechanism. Subsequently, organizational maladies metastasized."
Banigan retired this year. When reached for comment, Banigan declined, citing his desire “as a gentleman” not to undermine Mewbourne’s determination. Charlie may have been good for morale, he had become b-a-a-a-d distraction, Mewbourne decided, and imposed a ban on pets and live mascots across his carrier strike group. Master Chief Charlie could not be reached for comment. He is believed to be grazing at an undisclosed San Diego farm. No word has emerged on Charlie's retirement grade determination or the nature of his discharge from active-duty. The new command report of the Lake Erie paints a picture of a ship's culture as bizarre as that aboard the Cowpens in 2015, when the skipper holed up in his stateroom for much of their deployment and allegedly carried on an affair with his acting second-in-command. You might think the cruiser Lake Erie's goat, Master Chief Charlie, was out of place on a warship. You'd be wrong. Charlie's presence was as firmly rooted in Navy tradition as the jack staff or the ship's bell. Type "goat" into the search bar on Naval History and Heritage Command's website and prepare to graze on new information. The archives are chockablock with images of sailors and goats from every era since cameras made their way on ships in the 19th century.
Goats have shipped out on warships dating back to the days before refrigeration when sailors needed livestock on ships for milk and meat. The sure-footed quadrupeds were the ideal candidates for seagoing life. Smaller and easier to feed and clean up than a cow, and they're first-class swimmers. As better food preservation and storage technology came into the fleet, the need for goats on ships abated, leaving only the need for furry morale boosters. By 1893, the goat had become the de facto symbol of the U.S. Navy when it was adopted as the U.S. Naval Academy's mascot, according to the academy's website. Bill the Goat, a full-scale goat, lives on a farm near Annapolis and is cared for by a volunteer group of midshipmen. The USNA mascot is actually two goats, Bill XXXIII and Bill XXXIV, as the Navy believes in building redundancies into any system. [Source: NavyTimes | David Larter | November 16, 2015 ++]
USS Milwaukee (LCS-5) ► A Navy Ship Built for Speed
It still has that new car smell. Or more accurately, that new ship smell. The Navy's latest littoral combat ship, the USS Milwaukee, has undergone sailing trials on Lake Michigan since Marinette Marine shipyard workers finished construction in northeastern Wisconsin. It officially became a part of the fleet at its 21 NOV. An estimated 4,000 people turned out on a snowy, windy day for the ship's commissioning ceremony Designed for versatility and speed, littoral combat ships are a relatively new addition to the U.S. Navy built to operate close to shore and quickly switching from one combat mode to another by swapping out different equipment such as anti-mine or anti-submarine gear. With the global rise of terrorist groups like the Islamic State and al-Qaida rather than foes that fight with navies, Kendall G. Bridgewater was asked about the relevance of ships like the USS Milwaukee. The ship's commanding officer noted that the Navy's job is to keep sea lanes open, something it has done for centuries. "It doesn't matter if we're at war or at peace, the Navy is doing its job of keeping sea lanes open. It hearkens back to the start of the U.S. Navy which was to fight pirates," said Bridgewater, noting that littoral combat ships are not designed to go toe-to-toe with combat ships.
The USS Milwaukee is the fifth Freedom class littoral combat ship built in Marinette. The first, the USS Freedom, was commissioned in Milwaukee in 2008. The USS Milwaukee will travel through the St. Lawrence Seaway to the East Coast, then south to the Panama Canal to its home port of San Diego for patrols in Asia. It features a helipad in the stern for one manned and one unmanned helicopter. Standing in what's called the waterborne mission zone, Bridgewater pointed out a movable crane that can pick up a 34-foot boat to slide into the water through a rear hatch for crews to go ashore, transfer to other ships or conduct search and seizure missions. There's no propeller. Instead, the ship uses four water jets to travel at speeds up to 45 knots. Unlike older Navy ships, littoral combat ships operate with much smaller crews. A crew of 54 operates the USS Milwaukee, though it will carry around 100 when sailors tied to the helicopter aviation unit are on board.
Littoral combat ships also are designed to quickly swap out combat modules for missions that include searching for underwater mines, and battling other ships and submarines. But some question the effectiveness of the USS Milwaukee, and other littoral combat ships. The ship's interchangeable modules are supposed to make the ships more versatile, with each version tailored for a specific purpose. The original goal was to be able to change the modules in 72 hours. Critics say that concept isn't working, and that the littoral combat ships don't have the firepower, or armor, of larger warships.
The bridge is staffed with only three people who can control 95% of the ship through touch screens and levers that operate the water jets while sitting in seats that resemble Capt. Kirk's on the Starship Enterprise of "Star Trek." Nautical charts are passe. The ship travels with the aid of GPS and computerized maps. "We still have some paper charts but we've got one hanging on the wall for decoration," said navigator Lt. j.g. Alexander Gallagher, of Dallas, Pa., who wanted to serve on a littoral combat ship because "it's a small crew so you have more responsibility. But it's also more fun. Just from our name, we get to go closer to land and go faster." Seven additional littoral combat ships are in various stages of production at Marinette Marine, said Stephanie Hill, vice president and general manager of Lockheed Martin Corp.'s ship and aviation systems business line. Lockheed Martin is the general contractor for littoral combat ships, and subcontracts work to Marinette Marine. [Source: The Associated Press | November 22, 2015 ++]
USS Milwaukee (LCS-5)
Gravestone Coins Update 01 ► Origin
A coin left on a headstone lets the deceased soldiers family know that somebody stopped by to pay their respect. Leaving a penny means you visited. A nickel means that you and the deceased soldier trained at boot camp together. If you served with the soldier, you leave a dime. A quarter is very significant because it means that you were there when that soldier died.
Humans have been leaving mementos on and within the final resting places of loved ones almost from the beginning of the species. Excavations of even the earliest graves uncover goods meant to serve the deceased in the next world, such as pottery, weapons and beads. The earliest known coins date to the late seventh century B.C. As societies began embracing monetary systems, coins began being left in the graves of its citizens merely as yet another way of equipping the dear departed in the afterlife. Mythologies within certain cultures added specific purpose for coins being left with the dead. In Greek mythology, Charon, the ferryman of Hades, required payment for his services. A coin was therefore placed in the mouth of the dear departed to ensure he would ferry the deceased across the rivers Styx and Acheron and into the world of the dead rather than leave him to wander the shore for a hundred years. In England and the U.S., pennies were routinely placed on the closed eyes of the dead, yet the purpose for that practice was not clear — some say it was to keep the eyes of the corpse from flying open, yet the eyes, once shut by the person laying out the body, do not reopen.
In these more modern days, coins and other small items are sometimes discovered on grave markers, be they plaques resting atop the sod or tombstones erected at the head of the burial plot. These small tokens are left by visitors for no greater purpose than to indicate that someone has visited that particular grave. It has long been a tradition among Jews, for example, to leave a small stone or pebble atop a headstone just to show that someone who cared had stopped by. Coins (especially pennies) are favored by others who wish to demonstrate that the deceased has not been forgotten and that instead his loved ones still visit him. Sometimes these small remembrances convey meaning specific to the person buried in that plot. For more than twenty years, every month someone has been leaving one Campbell's tomato soup can and a pocketful of change on the plain black granite tombstone that marks the grave of Andy Warhol. The soup can is easy to explain, given Warhol's iconic use of that commodity in his art, but the handful of change remains a bit of a mystery. In similar vein, visitors often leave pebbles, coins and maple leaf pins at the grave of Canadian Prime Minister Lester B. Pearson, the man who replaced Canada's Red Ensign with the Maple Leaf flag.
Regarding the 'tradition' of soldiers leaving on the headstones of fallen comrades varying denominations of coins to denote their relationship with the deceased, the earliest reference to this practice we've found so far dates only to June 2009, when it appeared as a web site post. The version now commonly circulated in e-mail appears to have been drawn from it, albeit some changes have slipped in, such as "A buddy who served in the same outfit, or was with the deceased when he died, might leave a quarter" becoming "By leaving a quarter at the grave, you are telling the family that you were with the soldier when he was killed." Despite the claim of this tradition's dating back to the days of the Roman Empire, there's no reason to suppose that it does. A coin might be placed in the mouth of a fallen Roman soldier (to get him across the River Styx), but his comrades wouldn't be leaving their money on his grave, but rather expending it on a funeral banquet in his honor.
Given the lack of evidence that anyone anywhere is following this 'tradition,' it is perhaps best regarded not as an actual practice, but instead as someone's idea of what should be. Yet military folk do sometimes leave very special remembrances at the graves of deceased servicemen: challenge coins. These tokens identify their bearers as members of particular units and are prized and cherished by those to whom they have been given; thus any challenge coins found at gravesites were almost certainly left there by comrades-in-arms of the deceased. It needs be mentioned that not only coins, medallions, and stones have been found on military headstones. In July 2013, a wife of a deceased serviceman discovered another woman's name on her husband's marker in place of her own. Edna Fielden, widow of Air Force Master Sergeant Billy Fielden (buried at Fort Logan Cemetery in Denver 25 years earlier) was shocked to discover the headstone bore the inscription "Dolores" over the legend "His Wife" when she brought her grandchildren to visit the grave. [Source: Snopes | Barbara "grave mistake" Mikkelson | Oct 2015 ++]
Military Retirement System Update 20 ► New Proposal Update
Big changes are coming to the military retirement system. Congress has gone back and forth several times, and it looks like the final version of the law will be sent up to the President's desk soon. This is a major overhaul, but it's important to understand that everyone currently serving will be grandfathered into the current retirement system. So no need to worry about losing your current pension. It also won't start until 2018, so there is some time before these proposed changes take place. What is changing? The big change is a reduced pension multiplier in exchange for matching TSP contributions from the military and cash bonuses for re-upping at certain points in one's career. The pension multiplier would change from 2.5% per year, to 2.0% per year, a 20% reduction (40% of base pay at 20 years, as opposed to the current 50%). Again, this is still a proposal, and nothing has changed. But it's getting close. For a review of the proposal go to http://themilitarywallet.com/new-military-retirement-plan. [Source: The Military Wallet | November 17, 2015 ++]
Military Retirement System Update 21 ► New One Signed Into Law
President Obama has signed legislation putting in motion a massive military retirement overhaul that will affect the personal finances of hundreds of thousands of service members for decades to come. Just not right away. Defense officials still have dozens of details to work out with the new system, and the first individuals to feel the impact likely haven’t enlisted yet. The new retirement plan, included in the 2016 defense authorization bill represents not only a dramatic shift in the government’s approach to recognizing troops’ service but also a shift toward bringing Defense Department benefits more in line with private-sector offerings. In contrast to the longstanding current system that reserves pension payouts for troops who serve at least 20 years in uniform, the new, “blended” plan would give troops who serve as little as two years some retirement benefits through vested 401(k)-style investments in their Thrift Savings Plan accounts. Today, only about one in five service members sees any retirement pay. Under the new plan, officials estimate, about four in five will leave the military with some level of retirement savings.
The plan follows a recommendation from the Military Compensation and Retirement Modernization Commission in February, which found most younger Americans “change jobs frequently and tend to favor flexible retirement options.” The concept has been discussed among military advocates for years. Commissioner Steve Buyer, who served as a Republican representative from Indiana for 18 years, said lawmakers envisioned the shift from military pensions to investment accounts when they first approved the Thrift Savings Plan in 1999. Not everyone will shift to the new model; it will cover all troops who enter service after Jan. 1, 2018, but anyone already in the ranks or who signs up in the next 24 months will be grandfathered into the traditional, 20-year retirement system However, troops who entered service after Jan. 1, 2006, will be given the choice of opting into the new 401(k)-style system — creating some complex financial decisions for midcareer service members once 2018 arrives. Troops who entered before then — who will have served more than 12 years once the new system launches — could opt in with a special waiver, but lawmakers believe most people in this group would see little financial benefit in switching. That’s because the automatic investments are designed to grow over time. So an individual with substantial time in uniform already who will reach 20-year retirement in just a few years could lose thousands in pension payouts in the coming years by making the switch.
The new blended retirement plan gives an automatic contribution to troops’ TSP accounts equal to 1 percent of their annual pay. In addition, the military will match troops’ own contributions of up to 5 percent of their salaries. In exchange, the traditional pension-style payouts are reduced by 20 percent of their current value. And money in the savings plan is not available without tax penalties before age 59.5. And unlike the pension payouts, which are guaranteed, TSP investment growth depends on fluctuations in the stock market and economy. Riskier investment options could leave some troops with far less or far more than their peers when retirement arrives. Those concerns are why some veterans groups hesitated to support the retirement overhaul, and why lawmakers and military officials have promised new, robust financial education programs to go along with the change. Details of those programs are due to Congress next summer, giving the Defense Department about another 18 months to launch the classes before troops will be faced with choosing between the two retirement plans.
In addition, Congress has mandated refresher financial literacy courses throughout troops’ careers: at duty station changes, shortly after promotions, following “life events” like marriage or the birth of a child, and before and after deployments. The retirement overhaul plan also includes language mandating an annual study on the financial health of the armed forces, in an effort to track whether the expanded education efforts actually are helping troops make better choices about retirement and other family financial hurdles. Details of that plan still have to be worked out — along with much of the rest of the sweeping changes. [Source: MilitaryTimes | Leo Shane | November 23, 2015 ++]